Volcan Arenal

Trip Start Feb 03, 2006
Trip End Jun 20, 2006

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Flag of Costa Rica  ,
Tuesday, February 21, 2006

We left San Jose after 2 nights and headed to La Fortuna. The bus ride was pretty spectacular--climbing and winding through banana, pineapple, and eventually coffee fields situated on steep slopes. In one small town that we passed through, the zocalo was literally covered in topiary(?), all forming strange arches. Not for the weak-of-stomach.

La Fortuna is a small (7,000) town situated at the base of Volcan Arenal. Mostly, gringos go there to stare at the volcano, which is pretty archetypical and routinely active since the 1960īs. We were a bit horrified at just how touristy the town is. Basically, there are 4 businesses--restaurants, hotels, souvenir shops, and tour agencies. It is all "pay to play", and usually pretty expensive at that. The hot spring (which we didnīt go to) cost $19 each to get in!

We had a nice rest day there, and ate pretty decent casados (typical Costa Rican dishes of rice, beans, salad, and fried plantain, usually with your choice of stewed meat or fish). Excellent, usually less than $3 each. Often, a fresh fruit beverage is included in the price.

The highlight of the trip was a night-time trip to go see the volcanic activity. This is a popular tourist thing, so it wasnīt exactly peaceful (oh, the ugly ugly Americans). Comments overheard-"why donīt these idiots turn off their headlights when they drive by", "hey the tourists are here, turn on the lava", and other nasty gripes and groans.

Although we were disappointed by our fellow humans, the volcano was impressive. It was sort of like upside-down, slow motion fireworks. The lava coming from this volcano is fairly viscous, and tends to ball, breaking into smaller pieces as it goes. Even from about 1 km away, you could hear the noise and the "fireworks" were pretty impressive. We didnīt take photos, as the digital camera isnīt the best for it, but google Volcan Arenal and youīll get tons of images of it. (generally long exposure).

Weīre back at the Hostel Pangea now, heading out tomorrow for Nicaragua. We had to go back to San Jose because all the international busses leave from here, and actually it was faster to come back here than patchwork together other busses to make it to Managua. We hear the border crossing is awful....

It seems like, in Costa Rica, they lure you in with relatively cheap lodgings and sometimes cheap food, then expect that you will be willing to pay sometimes quite high sums to "enjoy the sights", which typically involves riding a zipline, riding an ATV, or simply hiring a guide to show you animals.
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